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Georgia students taking PSAT today glimpse SAT redesign

I've paid attention to the 2015 PSAT --  given this morning across Georgia -- for two reasons. The first is professional: The College Board has  revamped the 2016 SAT in significant ways , and today's PSAT reflects that redesign. The new SAT will roll out in March.

In the statement below, FairTest , a group critical of the overuse of standardized testing and specifically of the SAT, criticizes the new PSAT, including the multiple scores students will receive.

My son took a practice PSAT two weeks ago on the practice site created for the College Board by Khan Academy. And he showed me the revised scoring system that FairTest outlines.

So, I was aware the overall score on PSAT would be on a scale of 320 to 1520 rather than the 400 to 1600 of the redesigned SAT. You can read the  College Board's explanation here

College Board says it's also providing scores for various sections within the test so students can see where they faltered.

Here's what FairTest says about the new PSAT:

The more than one million high school students who sat for today’s first administration of the revised Preliminary SAT (PSAT) will each receive no fewer than 15 separate scores from that exam. Test results will be reported on a variety of scales, all of which differ from the historic 200-800 range on the SAT.

According to Bob Schaeffer of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest), “This false precision masks the fact the PSAT, old or new, is a weak predictor of college success, inferior to classroom grades. Score reporting ‘numerology’ also deflects criticism from the ongoing misuse of PSAT results as the sole qualifying factor for the National Merit Scholarship competition.”

A FairTest analysis of technical documents published by the College Board, the PSAT’s owner, shows each test taker will receive:

1 "Total Score" (320 - 1520 scale)

2 "Section Scores" (each on a 160 - 760 scale)

"Evidence-Based Reading and Writing" “Math”

3 "Test Scores" (each on a 8 - 38 scale)

"Reading" "Writing & Language" "Math"

2 "Cross-Test" scores (each on a 8 - 38 scale)

"Analysis in Science" "Analysis in History/Social Studies"

7 "Subscores" (each on a 1 -15 scale)

"Words in Context" “Command of Evidence”

"Expression of Ideas" "Standard English Conventions"

"Heart of Algebra" "Problem Solving & Data Analysis”

"Passport to Advanced Mathematics"

“To generate so many separate score categories, some with ham-handed promotional labels, such as Passport to Advanced Mathematics, the revised PSAT is 27 percent longer than last year," says Schaeffer.

"There is no evidence, however," he says, "the test is a more accurate or fairer predictor of undergraduate success. Independent studies demonstrate that an applicant’s high school record is a stronger gauge of college readiness than any standardized test. Yet, scores from the new PSAT will still be used as the sole qualifying factor for millions of dollars in National Merit scholarships.”

Civil rights and feminist groups have joined FairTest in criticizing the National Merit selection process for relying on a biased test to eliminate 99 percent of scholarship competitors, no matter how strong their academic records.

Research indicates that the lion’s share of National Merit aid goes to males and that few African-Americans or Latinos win awards.

More than 850 U.S. colleges and universities now do not require all or many applicants to submit results from the SAT or rival ACT. Four dozen additional schools dropped admissions score mandates in the past two years.

Here are some tweets from students today about the test. Apparently, there was a problem involving a wolf and one with cookies. (My twins kept talking about Frederick Douglass and dinosaurs.) Search PSAT on Twitter for more comments.


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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.